Sanity and sfogliatelle


Maybe it’s the state of blue in the ocean as you come upon it. Or perhaps it’s the twice-daily interplay of sun and horizon, composed by some invisible painter who’s a master of dramatic yet gentle color gradation. Bearing witness to either of these moments does wonders for the brain— and if by chance you get to experience both at once, the payoff is of course even better.

This week I found myself standing by a quay wall at sunrise, alternating my gaze between ocean, sky, and the scruffy Italian facades that seemed to change color as the day got to its feet. I was waiting for a lift to work, but I nearly didn’t want to leave and get on with my job. To me there was productivity being effected right there on the side of that Neapolitan road.

img_7983At my previous job I worked in a windowless office of a five-sided wind tunnel. Despite the soulless interior, I was fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding coworkers, many of whom were artists in their own right. But for them it wasn’t about color—  instead it had more to do with nonverbal communication. On days where my brow was furrowed and I wanted to shut everyone out, invariably one of them would materialize at my desk, waiting for me to acknowledge their presence.

img_7986“You’re in need of some sunlight,” the man with expensive suits and crazy socks would often say. I’d look into his eyes and see that there was no point in suggesting he was wrong. Scowling all the way, we’d head outdoors to press into sunbaked adirondack chairs that had us face up at the sun, eyes closed, and speaking very little. Always, without exception, I’d go back to the office feeling smoothed out and transformed. Always, without exception, I was grateful for the gentle kick in the ass.

img_8035For me, my existential highchair is supported by three legs: ocean, sun, and ready access to people whom I consider a part of my tribe. Of course, I don’t always get all three in the doses I want, but I would say that on most days each of these turn up exactly when I need them. This much held true following last week’s up close and underwhelming show of geopolitical humanity.

img_8014My line of work enables me to bounce like some sort of human experiment into coastal locales that offer varying degrees of familiarity. Naples, if you haven’t heard, is often looked upon as a bit of a Wild West, and as far as I can tell, there’s no such thing as a peaceful drive through the streets. More often than not you are spit out on along the water’s edge and wondering exactly what the hell just happened. Luckily for me, tangling with these aspects as a visitor was not a major issue. Also, I wasn’t doing the driving. Other aspects ultimately held more value.

img_7941What mattered most on this trip was that I not only got to interact with several folks who shared a similar read of the world’s Insanity Meter, but I also got to spend time in a place that offered some mental respite.  While I didn’t know it until I got there, I really needed prescription-level doses of sunshine, along with a good stretch of time just taking in the sea.

And if I’m being brutally honest, perhaps I also needed consume those few dozen coffees and calorific pasticceria bombs along the way. All of these things were available in Naples and there the taking. As I said before, most of the time life provides you with exactly what you need.